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DEALING WITH TRICKY FAMILY MEMBERS (1)

Audio Video

So, you know that there’s an issue, you have an idea about why it’s there, you know that you need to be more boundaried from your end to limit the impact of engaging but to also alter your part in the dynamic, and you’ve had some specific ideas about how to approach the person differently, even if it’s just in your head for now, as well as suggestions for reducing tensions and overall being more boundaried.

But, I bet you’re wondering how to assert a boundary when there’s a particular issue.

A lot of what has been talked about over the last few lessons has been about showing through actions with some pointers on what to say in certain situations.

You will find that depending on what type of tricky role they fall in to, stating boundaries verbally will either be effective or you will find that you need to talk more with your actions because of issues with trying to get them to listen or recognise your position. It will also affect how direct you need to be – with some people, any padding around what you’re saying will be misconstrued and even used against you, especially if they’re passive aggressive or aggressive.

An Absentee isn’t keen on taking responsibility so it’s best to be very clear on your own responsibilities and to also state things in such a way that even if they still choose not to take responsibility, they understand through the clarity of what you’re putting across that if they try to BS you, you won’t take ownership of their stuff. If you put too much emotion in to what you’re putting across, depending on what flavour of issues you’re encountering, they will either try to out-emotion you, put holes in your assertions, or play on what will likely be perceived as a need for validation. The more adult you are in your communication is also the less that they can keep seeing you in a child role and as such, acting as if time hasn’t moved on. They have to accept that you’re an adult and the old ways don’t work.

HOT TIP: Needs consistent show that backs up anything that’s said and always engage from an adult-to-adult place.

You can put a bit more padding with what you’re saying to a Follower but it has to be without losing the clarity and intent. If you make clear what you’re taking responsibility for and what you won’t, they realise that you won’t play ball. You are likely going to need to reinforce that you do value the relationship (if you do) but that you cannot put up with certain things or be expected to absolve them of their responsibility.

HOT TIP: May find that consistently showing your boundaries is more effective than getting drawn into emotional back and forths.

An Obliger responds to clear boundaries better than you might expect, albeit at times grudgingly because they realise that trying to press your guilt buttons is no longer effective. It’s best not to be wishy-washy because this is seen as pretty much a yes or that you’re conceding that you are indeed obliged to do what they want or guilty of some wrongdoing. They do like to feel needed so best to avoid saying anything that sounds like, “You are not needed”. You will need to at times make clear that you are not taking responsibility for their feelings and you will also at times need to call them out on emotional blackmail statements, which you can do without actually saying, “You are emotionally blackmailing me”.

HOT TIP: Needs a mix of show and tell and consistency on what you agree to. Avoid hidden agendas – basically never do anything where you’d hope to engineer an ideal response back. Don’t positively reinforce inappropriate behaviour.

A Power Player needs very clear boundaries that are mostly made clear via showing because while you can state boundaries verbally, they will love to drag in side issues or will enjoy lawyering up and grandstanding, as well as twisting things around to suit their agenda. As they’re all about power, even if they don’t own up to or recognise it, being clear, direct and owning your own is vital otherwise what you say or do (or don’t), will be misconstrued. Don’t accept (or give) generalisations because they need to take ownership of what they say but also because if you say, “You always” or “You never”, you can be assured that they’ll latch on to what they feel is an example and then blow a hole in your argument. Definitely do not tell them about your feelings or let them tell you yours. Sometimes in response to you querying something or stating your boundary, they try to twist things by not responding to what you’ve said and instead saying something like, “What’s wrong? You having a rough day?”, which is the perfect time to go, “No, my day is perfectly fine. As I was saying…” and then revert to facts.

HOT TIP: Be vigilant and be consistent because if you deviate, this will be seen as a ‘point’ for them. Do not engage in a child role or from a place of seeing you as the victim because they will take an authoritative stance.

A Rebel needs no messing about. A soft no where you putting a whole load of padding of explanations or even excuses to soften you setting boundaries, will have them running rings around you. It is imperative to stick to facts because you are most likely to have them do the passive aggressive thing of telling you what they think you want to hear and then doing something else altogether. Don’t fall in to the trap of getting drawn in to their side arguments or them denying their behaviour – fact it out!

HOT TIP: Don’t give positive reinforcement to inappropriate carry-on. A good mix of clear verbal boundaries and consistent actions work here. Call them out on any well honed tactics of theirs – it brings hidden agendas of theirs in to the open.

An Upholder even though there might be an element of gritted teeth, also responds to clear boundaries but will run rings around you and see their position as more valid, if you are wishy-washy. Empathy statements such as, “I recognise that you like _______ or that _______ is important to you” and “I hear your point” can go a long way to diffusing tension and because of their upholding ways, they will hear you clearly when you let them know what is important to you. As they like rules, knowing where they stand with you also puts the onus of responsibility about how they like things to be communicated more clearly.

HOT TIP: Show and tell. Avoid long-winded discussions. Stress that different does not mean wrong – you each have your own way of living and your preferences for how you want to live are not a judgment on him/her.

A User very much requires that you demonstrate your boundaries with action and consistently. They will only know the boundaries of giving and taking when you stop giving so much. Ask 99% of users if they’re a user and they will deny it, so emotional conversations are a waste of your time because they will pick holes in your story and switch it around so that it becomes about how you’re misjudging them. Facts if you’re talking but showing is vital here. Don’t expect them to see things your way.

HOT TIP: Don’t try to appeal to a side that they may not have. Don’t over-apologise. Say or show no without lots of fluffy guiltiness about having to.

Facts go a hell of a long way in TFM situations.

The Be Factual Approach is about being direct with statement as opposed to hinting, judgment and jumping to conclusions.

When you’re not factual, you tend to take ownership of other people’s behaviour and you also inadvertently get their back up by focusing primarily on talking about the outcome (your feelings) or how you perceive them in light of the issue, all while using those words and phrases that undermine you, or through generalisation, make it easy for them to find something to latch onto or turn it around.

Note that factual does not mean unemotional.

Factual means reality and reality has your emotions in it, it’s just not muddied up with projection and trying to role play the other person’s part or trying to rule or guilt the person with your feelings.

Let’s look at The Be Factual Approach in action:

Two weeks ago, you spoke with your relative about their inappropriate comments and forceful expectations. As you didn’t want to hurt their feelings ‘too much’, you didn’t give any clear examples of what it was that you didn’t like but you did tell them that you were hurt. They were quite defensive and also said that you had the wrong end of the stick but had taken your comments on board but now, you’re getting the comments again and they’re pushing their agenda and not taking no for an answer.

In previous times, you might have held in your frustrations and concerns and then eventually erupted and vented or, you might have wondered what you’ve done wrong, why you’re not worthy of them honouring what they said, which results in you eventually saying something like, “You obviously don’t care about me. You lied to me.”

This may be how  you feel but remember, feelings aren’t statements of fact plus if you go in with conclusion, that means that you’re closed to discussion and that’s just going to be a fertile ground for defensiveness on both sides.

Boundaried You: When we talked a couple of weeks ago, you assured me that you were going to ____________ {and you could insert specific things that were said} but since then, nothing has changed / you’ve gone back on what you said.

This is a factual quick summary of the issue.

It also really helps if you stick to three key points that capture the nuts and bolts of your concerns because you don’t get so lost in detail or throw everything at them but the kitchen sink.

Before you had boundaries, you’re talking about how they’ve made you feel, or the past or whatever.

Boundaried You: I’m confused about where I stand with you and yes, a bit hurt, because it feels as if we had a talk a couple of weeks ago but you’re still making the comments.

Note that there’s nothing in here about your self-worth and no shady person can claim that you’re being ‘needy’ and ‘over-emotional’ – you’re letting him/her know how what they’ve done has affected you – the results of their actions.

Or you could say: When you say one thing and then you do another, it puts a question mark over what we discussed. It feels as if you didn’t fully hear my concerns and because I value our relationship, it’s important to me that we try to find a way to address this.

Now this is a lot better than 1) saying nothing and absorbing what happened into some indictment of you and doing a mix of pleasing and showing your feelings through passive aggression or, 2) saying stuff that ends up saying more about how poorly you regard you.

You can also say ‘I’d like you to stop this’, or ‘I’d like to get this issue resolved’ or something to that effect which is better than saying, ‘You need to get yourself sorted out!’; ‘You need to stop this!’; or ‘You need to sort out your problems’. That person can then decide if they’re going to stop or work on a resolution with you.

In the next class, find out how to expand on Be Factual to state a boundary and outline consequences.

The TAKEAWAY

  • How your TFM typically acts out of habit (their role) informs some of your approach.
  • Some people don’t need it so categorically spelt out in black and white but some do.
  • The facts of a situation go a lot further in a discussion than trying to put across your emotions and trying to appeal to a side that they may not have.
  • Direct is preferred by the bulk of people even if they don’t like it in the moment – they know where they stand with you.
  • Direct does not mean rude but what it does mean is that trying to fudge around what an issue is because they’re family, is going to stop them from understanding what an issue is or how big it is or what needs to happen next.
  • People can understand an issue and there part in far more clearly if you cut to the chase.
  • Uncertainty and hesitation including passive communication tends to create push back from others; facts eliminate or certainly minimise confusion plus they help you to take ownership and basically stay in your own lane.
  • All things are possible when you can articulate an issue.
  • State an observation – “You seem to enjoy putting me down” and follow with 2-3 examples.
  • Always use examples and try to quote what they said. If they deny what was said, ask them, “Well what did you say then?” rather than going back and forth. Denying is a way to throw the discussion.

Journal PromptJOURNALING: How do you feel about being more direct with your family member? If it brings up uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, what are they and how can you use knowledge of what you know doesn’t work, to empower you to communicate more clearly? If you’re worried about hurting feelings, why is this? Would your feelings be hurt if someone were more direct with you and if so, why? The Releasing Exercise works well here.

taskTASK: Using some of the examples here as a springboard, write out how you would state a boundary that you’ve previously tried to get across to your TFM.